Athletics: New York City and Berlin marathons cancelled due to Covid-19 concerns

The New York City Marathon is one of the most prestigious and lucrative events of its kind. PHOTO: NYTIMES

NEW YORK (NYTIMES, REUTERS) - The New York City Marathon, the world's largest marathon and one of the city's biggest annual spectacles, has been cancelled this year as concerns about the spread of the coronavirus continue to dash hopes of holding large-scale events, organisers announced on Wednesday (June 24).

That came just before Berlin organisers revealed the scrapping of the Sept 27 marathon, which was postponed from April, due to problems finding an alternative date during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The New York race, one of the most prestigious and lucrative events of its kind, would have celebrated its 50th anniversary on Nov 1. It is one of the highlights of fall in New York and on the endurance sports calendar, attracting more than 50,000 runners, 10,000 volunteers and roughly one million fans, who line nearly every accessible metre of the 42km course through the city's five boroughs.

City officials and New York Road Runners, which owns and organises the event, decided holding the race would be too risky. Public health experts have said mass events, especially those that bring people together from across the globe, will remain a danger until a treatment or a vaccine for Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, is widely available.

White House officials have issued warnings about another wave of infections this fall. And while infection rates in the New York metropolitan area are now among the lowest in the country, the virus is spreading at concerning rates in areas that have not heeded the advice of public health officials to continue to practise social distancing, avoid public gatherings and wear masks. Cases were rising in 26 states on Tuesday night.

Following those guidelines while holding a major race is simply impossible, leaving the endurance sports business economically devastated this year.

Michael Capiraso, the chief executive of New York Road Runners, said he and other organisers had held out hope that the race could happen. They decided to cancel before having to spend more money to organise it.

"Cancelling this year's TCS New York City Marathon is incredibly disappointing for everyone involved, but it was clearly the course we needed to follow from a health and safety perspective," he said in a statement.

Runners who had signed up for this year's race will be able to choose to receive a refund or to defer their entry to the race during the next three years. They will also have the option to run the race virtually.

Organisers said they would announce details of the virtual event in July. They had cancelled the race once before, in 2012, after Hurricane Sandy hammered the region just days before the race.

With the announcements, three of the six World Marathon Majors have been cancelled this year due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Boston Marathon, originally due to be held in April and then postponed until September, was earlier scrapped for the first time in its history.

The Tokyo Marathon went ahead on March 1 with elite runners only while London was postponed to Oct 4 from April 26.

The Chicago Marathon has not announced any changes to its scheduled event in October.

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